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FAYETTEVILLE -- Maureen Scott grew up in Mahomet, Ill., about 10 miles from Champaign and only about an hour from Terre Haute, Ind., site of Monday's NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Thus, the University of Arkansas junior will have some family and friends rooting for her when she and the Lady Razorbacks toe the line for the women's race.

The Lady'Backs will need all the "home" advantage they can get, having been picked to finish somewhere between 20th and 30th.

Despite her Midwestern reserve, Scott expressed disagreement with the experts' projections.

"I definitely think we can finish higher than that," she said. "We want to be a Top-15 team in the nation, and if everyone has a good day we can finish in the Top 10."

Scott has been consistent all season, placing second on the team in four of five races. At the Southeastern Conference Meet and the South Central Regional, she ran close to Arkansas pacesetter Alison Zeinner-Rush.

"I'm getting there," Scott said.

Scott has pursued her running goals since the sixth grade, when she said "goodbye" to softball, soccer and basketball -- sports she liked -- and "hello" to track, a sport she discovered she loved.

Her passion for running was apparent at Mahomet-Seymour High, where she won the conference 3,200-meter title as a freshman and added nine more league crowns.

Schools like Vanderbilt, Marquette and Arkansas came calling, in part because of Scott's spotless academic record. She still carries a 4.0 grade-point average at Arkansas.

"I chose Arkansas because I enjoyed my visit here," Scott said. "The whole tradition of the track program was motivation to come here and be successful.

"I really liked Coach (Lance) Harter. He was someone I could trust to coach me, and someone I could talk to. I felt I could achieve my highest potential here."

By the end of her sophomore year, Scott finished 12th in the steeplechase at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last June, earning All-American honors.

Now she wants to be among the top-35 Americans who make All-America in the national meet.

"If I run like I'm capable, I can do it," Scott said.

A kinesiology major with a business minor, Scott hasn't yet decided what to do after college.

"I want to keep my options open," she said. "I'll have to see where I am in running. It's been a dream of mine to continue running. I'd like to keep working on the steeplechase, and I'd also like to run a marathon someday."

Scott was watching on television when former Lady'Back Deena Drossin Kastor placed third in the women's marathon at the Athens Olympics this year.

"That was so awesome," Scott said.

Scott is eager to perform well in Terre Haute, since the Lady Razorbacks did not qualify for the national meet last year. In her only previous NCAA cross country meet, Scott finished 105th as a freshman.

"There's such a big pack that you have to go out hard to separate yourself," she said.

Harter has chosen a veteran team for nationals, including junior Penny Splichal, who struggled in the SEC meet and was replaced at the regional. But Splichal has been surging of late.

"Penny is coming along well," Scott said. "We want to beat (SEC champion) Tennessee at nationals."

The Lady'Backs also have a score to settle with SMU, which beat them by nine points at both the Chile Pepper and the South Central Regional.

"If we could beat Tennessee and SMU at the national meet, that would be so wonderful," Scott said.

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